Conference Debates Industry/CME Relations

Are industry funds for CME decreasing? How is direct-to-consumer advertising going to affect CME? How can CME providers prove to commercial supporters that they will get a return on their investment?

These were some of the issues discussed by the approximately 200 attendees at the Eighth Annual Conference on CME Provi-

der/Industry Collaboration, held October 5 to 8 in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Of top concern to CME providers is the pedicle screw litigation, in which medical societies, for the first time, have been targeted as defendants in a mass tort case. (See "The Turn of the Pedicle Screw," page 37.)

Commercial Support While attendees had differing views about whether

industry support was increasing, decreasing, or staying about the same, there seemed to be overall agreement that providers had to work harder to

obtain support. This may become even more pronounced, now that direct-to-consumer advertising has been legalized.

"There is only a finite amount of dollars," said Dennis K. Wentz, MD, director, division of CME, American Medical Association (AMA), and co-chair, National Task Force on CME provider/industry Collaboration, in an interview following the conference. "If there is an enormous shift to direct-to-consumer advertising, there will be less dollars for continuing professional education."

To counter the potential threat posed by direct-to-consumer advertising, "providers need to convince industry they are more valuable," Wentz said. The decision about whether to prescribe a particular drug still rests with the physician. In fact, Wentz sees that the advertising might create a new CME topic--doctors may not be seeing the ads the public is seeing, and they will need to be kept up-to-date on the advertising content. (See Capsules, page 13 in the September/October issue for more on this.)

The ROI Challenge Demonstrating ROI to industry supporters was one of the main challenges addressed at the conference. There have been problems defining ROI because providers have been thinking in narrow ways, asserted Robert K. Kristofco, MSW, director, division of CME, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine (UAB). Moderating a session on measuring ROI, Kristofco said that the issue has been clouded by semantics. He said the term should be return on educational investment.

In a breakout session, Kristofco's colleague Linda Casebeer, PhD, associate director, division of CME, UAB, elaborated on his points, stressing that sometimes the benefits of funding education are intan-

gible, but nonetheless are important to industry supporters. For instance, providers can point to goodwill and increased visibility as benefits industry supporters can reap from funding CME. "Those benefits are hard to quantify," Casebeer said, "but a pharmaceutical company will pay for goodwill."

Regulation Confusion There was also much, sometimes heated, discussion about varied interpretations of Accreditation Council for CME guidelines and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. One particularly touchy subject was: What is the legitimate role of pharmaceutical company representatives when attending CME seminars? Are they allowed to attend at all? If so, are they allowed to participate in Q&A sessions and networking lunches?

Reps may attend but cannot participate in discussions, said Joan Antokol, JD, senior counsel, Hoffman-la Roche, Inc., speaking about her company's guidelines.

If a sales rep is not allowed to converse because he or she is a sales rep, that is "title discrimination," countered one audience member. Another commented that he had been at numerous CME seminars where reps were the invited speakers. There is so much gray area, attendees said, far too much to be cleared up during the conference.

In an interview following the conference, Murray Kopelow, MD, ACCME executive director and secretary, said that regulation of reps is the FDA's responsibility, and that the ACCME has no regulatory role.

"We only provide guidance to accredited providers as to how to assure control of content, and separate promotion from education," he says. "We have no policy saying providers have to exclude a certain group of registrants from educational activities because of their jobs."

In order to ensure that pharmaceutical companies collaborate with CME providers in following ACCME regulations, "CME providers ought to step out in front and invite industry people in and explain the rules that they have to abide by if they want to remain accredited," Wentz summarized after the conference. "Build relationships. Then, if issues come up, you can talk about them as colleagues and friends, rather than adversaries."

First Continuing Ed Endowment Endowed chairs are commonplace in undergraduate and graduate education. But there has never been one in continuing education--until now. The Center for Continuing Professional Education at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston has established the first-ever endowed directorship in the field of continuing professional education.

The $500,000 endowment means a new title for David A. Shore, PhD, who is now the Coopers & Lybrand Director of Continuing Professional Education, as well as assistant dean of the School of Public Health (and columnist for this magazine).

"As healthcare organizations and practitioners are asked to increase effectiveness while streamlining costs, leadership training is imperative," said Robert B. McDonald, chairman of Chicago-based Coopers & Lybrand's National Health Care Practice.

Both McDonald and Shore emphasized the advantages of melding the school's research in health care and the consulting firm's practical experience. The two organizations' first collaboration will be a

conference entitled "Government Repercussions in Health Care: Regulation, Taxation, Investigation & Representation."

CLC Selects New Management Firm The Convention Liaison Council (CLC) board of directors has voted to recommend the Resource Center for Associations in Wheat Ridge, CO, as CLC's new management firm. The CLC House of Delegates voted on the board's recommendation at their Council of Delegates meeting, held November 14 to 15 in Nashville. (At press time we did not have the results of that vote.)

The Resource Center was selected from among six others. One of its strongest points was its president Francine Butler's understanding of the CMP program, says Craig Smith, CLC chair. Butler was one of the founding board members of the CMP, and has been involved with the program ever since.

The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) had been managing CLC for many years. CLC was not at all dissatisfied with ASAE, clarifies Craig. Rather, CLC adopted a new strategic plan last year that changed its governance structure, and the new board of directors decided to separate the administrative side of CLC from its governance side. Since ASAE is a permanent board member, the board felt it was better to bring in another firm, Craig explains.

Should the delegates approve her appointment, the first big project Butler will tackle is the creation of an industry forum, the specifics of which are yet to be decided, Craig says. It may be an event similar to the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism. Only, unlike that conference, where, Craig says, the meetings and expositions industry was "blown over," this conference would impress upon government the importance of the convention industry. Or, the forum may be an inside-the-industry event, designed to tackle pressing issues such as contract standardization.

Other CLC plans in the works include an update of the economic impact study and, possibly, an expansion of the CMP program to include a more advanced level. "We want to ensure the program addresses the needs of people who have been in the business 15 years," says Craig.

As for Butler's perspective on her goals with CLC, she says she is "mostly listening at this point." Once she examines CLC's goals, she says, she "hopes to bring some creativity to the table."

Incoming PCMA President to Tackle Standardization Will the meetings industry ever develop a set of standards and recommended practices? It's a challenge that has daunted industry leaders for years, but incoming Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) president Mickey Schaefer, CAE, director of meetings and conventions divisions and convention manager, American Academy of Family Physicians, aims to jump-start the process.

"We're going to try to convince all the players in the industry that we need to develop some type of standards or recommended practices concerning technology and relationships with suppliers to guide the industry through the next decade," she says.

PCMA will not attempt the task alone. "We hope that everyone will join together," she says, "and make this an

industry-wide effort."

Toward that end, Schaefer plans to approach the Convention Liaison Council (CLC) executive committee and ask them to undertake the project. The executive committee is composed of members from the major industry organizations. In addition to PCMA, members include the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus (IACVB), the International Association for Exposition Management (IAEM), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). (If that membership sounds familiar, it is. The Unity Team was composed of those organizations' members. But the Unity Team has been disbanded, says Schaefer, and the CLC executive committee now brings those organizations together.)

Another goal, potentially controversial, involves revamping membership bylaws to allow organizations other than nonprofit associations, such as corporations, to join as members, and further, to allow affiliate members (suppliers) to vote.

Why is PCMA considering these changes? "We like to boast our meeting is for all sides of the industry," explains Schaefer. "We don't have a trade show. Instead of suppliers standing in a booth selling to meeting managers, they are in education sessions with us, sharing ideas."

Schaefer acknowledges that some people worry about the possibility that one hotel chain, by having a lot of members, could sway votes. On the positive side, she says, giving affiliates the vote will "allow them to feel more a part of the

organization."

A task force on membership, headed by the next president-elect Richard P. Grimes, CAE, of the American Lung Association, will gather input from members over the next year. Members will vote on proposed bylaw changes at the 1999 annual meeting.

Schaefer, who will officially take office at PCMA's annual meeting, scheduled for January 7 to 10, in Kansas City, says she will be carrying out goals originally determined two years ago, when then-president Anthony J. Jannetti met with the immediate past president and president-elect to develop an ongoing strategy for the coming years.

Pegasus Goes Public; More Housing Companies Sign Onto UltraRes Pegasus Systems, Inc., which is owned by 15 hotel and travel companies, went public in August in order to raise capital and expand its business, says president and CEO John F. Davis III. The public offering has "succeeded even beyond our wildest dreams," Davis says, with more stock sold at a higher price than had been predicted. Currently stock is selling at about $17 a share.

One of Davis's goals this coming year is to create a data warehouse for the hotel industry. Through its hotel reservations company THISCO (The Hotel Industry Switch Company), Pegasus has accumulated a huge amount of information about hotel guest patterns, such as how much a guest spends for the room and for food and beverage, Davis says. Now he plans to make that information accessible to hoteliers and others in the travel and meetings industry. "We want to create some interesting marketing data for hoteliers," he says, "and hard facts for meeting planners."

In related news, two more convention housing vendors, Convention Management Resources, in San Francisco, and Visitors Services International, in St. Petersburg, FL, have signed on to use THISCO UltraRes, the electronic data transmission system launched last January that allows housing vendors to download rooming lists directly into participating hotels' computer reservations systems.

"We thought UltraRes was the best technological solution in the marketplace for keeping track of room blocks," says Stephen McLean, CEO, Visitors Services International, a subsidiary of Teleservices International Group, Inc., which provides housing for the Portland (OR) and Milwaukee (WI) CVBs.

In addition, another vendor, Housing On-Line, based in Las Vegas, will be using UltraRes when servicing its new client, the San Diego CVB. UltraRes is also used by International Travel Service (ITS), a housing company in Deerfield, IL. So far, two hotel chains, Hyatt Hotels and Holiday Inn Worldwide, have signed on.

New Certification Program for U.S. Planners

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) introduced its Certificate in Meetings Management (CMM) for experienced meeting planners in Europe in 1994. MPI is committed to taking the program worldwide in 1998, and the Convention Liaison Council (CLC) has been asked to make it an industry-wide certificate, according to Anna Lee Chabot, CMP, MPI president, and head of the meetings and assemblies section for The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, based in Ottawa. She commented while in New York City on September 16 to help the New York MPI Chapter celebrate its 20th anniversary with a gala evening and education day.

"The CMM was born in Europe for experienced planners," Chabot said. "We are committed philosophically to bringing it worldwide. The tactical is still to come--that is, determining the curriculum, pricing, and financing of the program. Europe's program will continue the way it is," she added. "It's working, so we've decided to leave it alone, but to build on it for the international program. We are hoping to roll it out in 1998."

According to Jim Daggett, CAE, CMP, president, JRDaggett & Associates and chair of the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) Board, which is under the aegis of the CLC, "There was some discussion at the CLC board meeting in Dallas in September about offering an advanced certification in meeting planning, but the board is interested in making the CMP a prerequisite." He added that the meeting of the Triad (the education, information technology, and marketing committees of MPI) during that same time period recommended that the CMP not be a prerequisite to the CMM.

MPI undertook two independent surveys of its member and nonmember meeting planners over a period of two years, both of which clearly demonstrated a belief that an educational program for experienced planners was needed.

Chabot emphasized that unlike the Certified Meeting Professional program, which has become the industry's standard as a certification of the nuts-and-bolts of meeting planning, the CMM addresses the strategic and analytical approaches. "It will be a three-step process: self-assessment form (which provides an overview of the candidate's background and which the CMP certification can count toward), coursework (which the CMP does not require), and an exam. --Betsy Bair